cat ears
Trick or Treat
by Robbi Nester

All summer we kids would plan
as our mothers stitched and stapled
in preparation for this day in late
October, when the moon burned
orange as maples and the air
turned cool. My mother only hoped
I might accept at last her bows and baubles.
Rather than princesses or gypsies,
I preferred the bizarre
and the original—a lightbulb,
or a pencil capped with pink eraser,
a praying mantis or a fly. But this year,
at eleven, I agreed to let her
dress me as a black cat,
silky ears and whiskers
perched on a black hairband,
slinky leotard and tail
that brushed the ground.
My figure was quite precocious.
Most days, I hid beneath loose blouses,
unbuttoned cardigans.
At last, I let her show me off.
Pins in her teeth, she smiled, and made me
twirl before the mirror, handed me
my coat and flashlight, shopping bag.
They gawked, adults and kids alike,
as I stepped up to each lighted threshold,
bag extended to receive handfuls
of Clark bars, Mary Janes, Nik L Nips,
and Necco Wafers, wax lips
and candy necklaces, Pez charms,
enticing Licorice All-Sorts.
Finally, one woman on a distant block
stepped sternly to the door,
declared me an embarrassment.
Too old for trick or treat.
“Get a bra!” she said,
shadow cowboys blurring
as I fled.


This poem, written to the Silver Birch Press prompt, is one of a series of autobiographical pieces I have written about traumatic events in my youth. Many of these (though not this one) will appear in my new collection of poems, Other-Wise, to be published by Tebot Bach Press.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester lives and writes in Southern California, but grew up in Philadelphia. Her birthday almost coincides with Halloween, so the two are often conflated in her mind.

PHOTO: The author trying on a Brunhilda helmet (complete with braids) at a Southern California costume shop (2015).